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Photo Essay: Houston Museum of Natural History

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FC: PHOTO ESSAY: | By: John Lodge | Houston Museum of Natural Science

1: One design element of the museum I have always found interesting was the fact that the fastest and easiest route between the museum and the parking garage is, conveniently, through the museum store. You used to have to walk around outside. This was obviously a very conscious decision to drive sales in the store. Those responsible probably included store staff, the museum director, visitor services staff, and any number of other upper level leadership, including the marketing manager whose responsibility it is to increase income for the museum (Schlatter, pg87).

3: This is the bottleneck I mentioned a few weeks ago in one of our threads. In this narrow portion of the main entrance hall, we have the confluence of three separate high traffic areas. On the left is the exit from the IMAX theater. On the right you can just make out the sign for the bathrooms, and you can't see it, but McDonald's is recessed in that wall. You will also notice that there is very little seating. What little there is is on the right wall, while on the left is a family sitting on the floor eating their Happy Meals. In his response to my thread, Thomas suggested that this may have been a conscious choice to drive traffic into McDonald's. I think this is entirely possible. If so, it would have been a choice probably made by collaborative group including the director, a McDonald's representative, the director of development, the chief financial officer, visitor services staff, and possibly a contract architect (I think the placement may also have to do with space limitations and structural concerns like existing plumbing etc.).

4: This membership sign represents the work of the membership staff in deciding what benefits to offer members and what levels of membership (Glaser, pg108). If it was printed in-house which would have included the work of any print/publication staff. | Here, at one of the ticket counters, are some visitor guides, an example of the collaboration between visitor services, exhibit and curatorial staff, and the print/publications staff, who are responsible for any promotional materials (Schlatter, pg 79).

5: This display is a large monitor playing a looped slide show about the history of the museum's diplodocus skeleton, how it was unearthed and how it came to be in the museum. This represents the work of several positions. Curators worked with archivists and collections staff to detail the history of the item, media specialists put the slide show together, and facilities staff mounted and connected the monitor.

7: The facing page has five pictures from some of the permanent exhibits. Each of these represents the collaborative work of curators, exhibit designers, exhibit and lighting staff, conservators, and collections staff. Curators determine exhibit themes and provide content knowledge for the exhibit designers who design the exhibit (Schlatter, pg. 57). Exhibit and lighting staff put the exhibit together. For those displays involving original artifacts (I think the top left photo has real fossils), the conservators ensure that the conditions in the display are optimal to maintain the artifact. Collections staff keep track of where artifacts are and if they are moved or their condition changes (Schlatter, pg. 72-73).

8: The museum is famous for its Foucault Pendulum. As the pendulum swings back and forth, the earth rotates underneath it and the pendulum knocks over wooden pegs (I think it is one every fifteen minutes). People will stay and stare until they get to see one of the pegs knocked over. The pendulum represents the work of someone who understands how the pendulum works (possibly a curator) and facilities staff working with an architect (this part of the library is built around the pendulum).

9: This is a photo of an educational demonstration being performed in front of a group of children. Obviously this is the work of the education staff. The demonstrator might be on staff or a volunteer.

10: These two pictures represent the efforts of the development staff. To the right is an example of the plaques that line the entrance hall with the names of major donors for various years. The below picture is the entrance to Weiss Energy Hall exhibit which lists the sponsors of the exhibit.

11: This is a photo of the new expansion, the 115,000 square foot Dan L. Duncan Family Wing. It will feature a football field size paleontology hall and more education and classroom space. The design of the wing was probably a collaboration between the director, facilities staff, and an architect. It was funded by a capital campaign, which falls under the purview of the development staff (Schlatter, pg. 75-78).

12: References: Glaser, J. R., & Zenetou, A. A. (1996). Museums: Aplace to work, planning museum careers. New York, NY: Routledge. Schlatter, N. E. (2008). Museum Careers: A practical guide for students and novices. Walnut Creek, CA: Leftcoast Press

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  • Title: Photo Essay: Houston Museum of Natural History
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